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ICELAND: Land of Fire and Ice

ICELAND: the land of fire and ice. A small island located in the North Atlantic Ocean just below the Artic Circle. This country is home to more than twenty active volcanoes, some of the largest glaciers in Europe, is in an ideal location for some of the most spectacular Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) displays and its stunning scenery caught the eye of HBO bosses when it came to deciding filming locations for the TV Show ‘Game Of Thrones.’ This action packed adventure has long been on my bucket list and when I saw a Black Friday deal for five days I could not resist. There was no better way to bid farewell to a long and dull January than taking a two hour flight to Iceland and explore what this country has to offer.

We booked a package deal to Reykjavik, Iceland for four nights with Thomas Cook.
Flying directly from Belfast International Airport with Easyjet who provided us with exceptional customer service and went above and beyond our expectations during the two hour flight there and home again.
We stayed at the three star Arctic Comfort Hotel which ticked all the boxes for us: was clean, comfortable, affordable and had all of the amenities we needed for the perfect place to put your head down at night. The hotel is roughly a thirty minute walk from Reykjavik city centre and ten minutes from a local supermarket.

Getting There

When you first arrive in Iceland you will land in Keflavik Airport which was built and used by the American military during the second world war. It is roughly a forty minute drive into the capital city Reykjavik and I would highly recommend pre-booking the Flybus Airport shuttle which will drop you right outside your hotel. A transfer ride is essential and the first thing you will have to do upon arrival so it is important to keep it stress free. The bus ride is operated by Reykjavik Excursions who took us to every destination we had booked for our holiday – they have fantastic customer service and tour guides covering a wide variety of activities so you will be anything but stuck for something to do on your trip.

What You Need To Know

Currency: Icelandic Krona.
For five days I converted £300 GBP into 40,000kr. The conversion rate is a tricky one and took a day or two to work out what I was spending. As majority of goods are imported to Iceland expect to pay more for them than you would back home. To give you a rough idea a lunch for two people consisting of fish and chips with two bottles of coke in a restaurant in Reykjavik city centre cost 6,200kr which is roughly £44 GBP.

Tips For Saving Money.
Look into your hotel amenities before booking. Our hotel room had a mini fridge so we were able to go to the local supermarket and buy milk and butter. Since eating is where the largest amount of money will be spent I highly recommend taking a trip to a supermarket or convenient store. There we picked up a fresh loaf of bread and a few other things for the evening time.
Since our package included hold luggage we took this as an opportunity to fill half the suitcase with food such as a box of cereal, cup a soup, pot noodles and a handful of tea bags.

Hot Water.
Iceland boasts having the cleanest water in the world – so much so you can drink the water flowing through the rivers and streams. However, when it comes to the hot water, you will notice a rather strong smell of sulphur. If you do not know what sulphur smells of I can give you a clue: egg. The hot water comes from the ground and is supplied by geothermal power plants. It is perfectly safe to bathe in and you do not smell of sulphur in the slightest once you step out of the shower.

Where Two Continents Meet

Iceland is an incredibly active country, in terms of geography. Words such as volcanoes and tectonic plates have long been out of our day to day vocabulary since our school days – but in Iceland you get to experience these things first hand.

Iceland is on the mid-Atlantic ridge; a small seam of land where you can see the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is the only country in the world where these can been seen on land and not below sea level. In the Þingvellir National Park surrounded by stunning and dramatic cliffs you can see the push-pull motions of these tectonic plates which continue to shape Iceland today. In short the country is growing, on an average there is a volcanic eruption every five years, which is forming new land and landscapes.

Volcanoes

The Golden Circle Tour is the most famous tourist route and there is no question as to why. One of the highlights of the trip was not in the schedule – our tour guide stopped the bus and had us pull over on the side of the road to look off into the horizon. There as the sun was rising we saw to volcanoes off in the distance. One of those pinch me moments – everything about it was picture perfect. Our tour guide told us it was unusual to see during this time of year due to low cloud coverage and the late sunrise.

This photography was taken in a highly active volcanic area running along South Iceland. The volcano almost perfectly centred in the photograph is Hekla. Nicknamed the ‘gateway to hell’ and for good reason. She has erupted over twenty times since 874. The last eruption take place was in February 2000 and has remained silent… until recently. Hekla is showing increasing signs of reawakening and experts are continuing to monitor the area for any signs of a possible eruption.

The volcano off to the right is Eyjafjallajökull which was unknown to many until the 2010 eruption which halted air travel across Europe in the weeks to follow due to the volcanic ash in the air. Since then it appears to have went back into hibernation and appeared peaceful from the distance we were.

 

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